Waiting for news
“The hardest part is not hearing anything from him,” says Gloria Serna, the mother of Lance Cpl. Jesus Gallegos, 21, an Eagle Valley High School 2000 graduate in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps. 2nd Batallion. The last time Serna talked with her son was March 7, when he was in Kuwait City. That day, a letter from Jesus also arrived in the mail. “It was pretty personal; he wrote a lot about the family,” Serna says. “He said, “I know you’re proud of me, but the real hero is you because what I’ve learned, I learned it from you.’” also sounded a little scared, her mother says. “I could feel it in the tone of his voice,” she says. “He gets sentimental when he’s frightened. But he also told me not to worry. He said, “I’m doing what I want to do, Mom.’” Jesus isn’t a man who shrinks before a challenge, says his sister, Delcie Davis. “We did bungee-jumping in Pueblo and he dove from cliffs,” she says. “He isn’t afraid of trying things.” Becoming a Marine When the recruiter for the Marines came to Eagle Valley High School, Jesus, then a junior, signed up to join. “I think he had doubts at the beginning because he didn’t realize the commitment he was making,” says his sister. “But he did a lot of growing up when he was in boot camp.” In August 2000, Jesus left Gypsum, where he lived with his mother, for California to start his new life as a Marine. “When he came back he had lost 60 pounds,” Davis says. “He was fit and was very polite and respectful.” Serna says her son had always been a good student, a football player in high school, and a fisherman. He also showed cattle at the Eagle County Rodeo, where he won Grand Champion Steer in 1997 and 1999. “He’s a strong-willed person and very independent,” Serna says. “He likes being a Marine and he enjoys the travelling.” In the past two years, Jesus has been to Singapore, Australia and Hawaii. Deena Eaton, the mother of his best friend, John, who has known him since the two boys were in kindergarten, says Jesus is a strong, level-headed man, and that should help him cope with the war. “He is a wonderful young man. I could consider him a son,” Eaton says. “Every time he comes home, he comes to see us. I even remember when he called from Hawaii at 3 a.m.” This isn’t Jesus’s first time in action. In 2001 he spent eight months in the Persian Gulf patrolling the waters during the conflict in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “When he was there, he e-mailed us a lot,” she says. “But before he left for Kuwait, he told us he couldn’t write us e-mails because of security reasons.” Still, Jesus was able to ask for some things in his letters. “He said the sandstorms are bad and they can’t shower often, so he wanted baby wipes and toiletries,” she says. The Wal Mart in Frisco, where Serna is an assistant manager, sent Jesus and his batallion 56 pounds of baby wipes and other items. “He also wanted family photos, chocolate and baked goodies,” she says. The right cause Gloria Serna wears a yellow ribbon in support of the troops in Iraq. “I also have yellow bows in my house,” says Serna, who now lives in Frisco. She says she doesn’t agree with the dozens of protests against the war that had taken place in the United States. “Now that they are there, our troops need support,” she says. “I’m very patriotic. I believe that if the president says they need to be there, that’s what they have to do.” Deena Eaton says Gallegos’ strong family background should also help him while he is in Iraq. “His mom was a single mom and did an amazing job raising her kids,” she says. Serna, a widow, raised her four kids alone for most of their lives. “The thing that stands out the most is that when he called to say he was going to Afghanistan, he was emotional. But all he said was, “If something happens to me, please take care of my mom.’” Henry Serna, Jesus’s eldest brother, says he also feels the strong family bond will help his brother stay focus. “He has a place to come back to when this is over,” says Henry Serna, who baptized his brother. “We support him through this and we hope that he is safe.” Since the war started, Gloria Serna says she can’t sleep well. She also is staying with her children in Gypsum to get support. The last time she saw her son was during Christmas. Jesus was shipped to Kuwait in January. “I’m very proud of what he’s doing,” she says. “But it’s also stressful, I’m scared all the time. I fear that phone call, but most of all I fear the TV. I always fear that whenever they say, “So many Marines have been killed today’, I’ll see Jesus’ picture or hear his name. “You can never prepare yourself for bad news,” says Gloria Serna. “And no matter what happens, I have to remember that this is what he chose.” Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.